The worldwide Augustana College experience

Blog for day 3 – Jessie Allen

Where do you blog?

From your bedroom? Perhaps your kitchen. Well, I’m currently blogging on the edge of the world. That’s what it feels like, at least. I’m sitting on a rickety old lounge chair that’s perched at the top of a cliff. Literally, a cliff, no metaphors intended here. There is at least a 100 foot drop off the edge of my cliff; the drop leads you directly into the ocean, which is crashing onto the jagged coral and rocks so far below. A magnificent as this sight sounds- and believe me, it is truly spectacular- this sight’s majestic and rustic beauty is not uncommon in Jamaica. Everywhere you look, it seems that the colors are brighter, the views are more spectacular, and I feel as if I could look for a life time and still not see half of what Jamaica offers.

This is the third day of our journey into Jamaica. We are currently staying at the Great Huts resort. Although Great Huts has been featured in many travel magazines, it is unlike any hotel that I have ever been to. We could only reach the huts after a 3 hour can ride through roads that are most fit for a third world country. At certain points, our tires were parallel with the edge of a cliff. The only sensation that I can compare this car ride to was the feeling that one gets as they are sitting in a movie theatre, watching a graphic and terrible horror movie and the music is getting louder and faster and the bad guy is getting closer and closer and he’s about to strike! We all felt that adrenaline rush for a very long time – we were all exhausted when we finally reached home.
Everyone’s hut is very different. My hut is simple and perfect. It’s made of bamboo shoot that have been roped together and the roof is made of sheets of tin that are hammered into the bamboo. There is a double bed that Taelar and I share, which is covered in mosquito netting to keep out the very large bugs. There is also a little living room area that contains a table for two. This area has no windows and overlooks the cliffs. Our bathroom is outside, and takes a little getting used to. As much as Taelar and I are missing some of the comforts of home (for example, less cock roaches would be nice) the view that we wake up to makes it worth it. The open sea is endless, and we get to drink it all in.
Close to our huts is a local town. I must say that I was pretty nervous when we first ventured out into town for dinner tonight. It was our first real encounter with local Jamaicans. First, we ate such delicious food; I ordered lobster that had been caught earlier that day and it says so spicy and fresh and juicy that just thinking about it now makes my mouth water. After dinner, many of us headed into the local bar to have a drink and play some dominos. I sat down to play dominos with two young boys – Ruburt and Winfred (many of them have old English names). These two young boys were very friendly and eager to teach me -and beat me- at dominos (which is a favorite game in Jamaica). As we played, two young girls, ages eight and three, came over to watch. The three year old climbed up into my lap and helped me play dominos; her cousin however soon pushed me off and helped me play as well. Touching my blonde hair was a priority for these little girls – they told me that it was very soft and golden. They were all absolutely adorable.
I wish that I could capture the atmosphere of this place. You can always smell a thin layer of ganja in the air. The people walk slower, laugh louder, and touch more. The whole community is a family, and everyone watches over everyone else children; there is no such thing as separate tabs- if you go to a restaurant with your friends and you were paid that day, then you at expected to pay for everyone at the table. The people here are so friendly and just want to talk to you, to have you listen to them, and to share that moment with you. Life is lived in that moment, and nothing happens quickly. Things like food and drink are savored and consumed in moderation, because you can’t enjoy something if you are stuffing your face with it. Their words are slow and beautiful, and the more I listen, the more I understand. I love it here.
The beginning of this day was a total blur, and seems like it happened many years ago. We took another nail-biting drive up to Reach Falls, a breathtaking waterfall in the mountains.  We got to hike up into the mountains through the streams that lead down to the waterfall in search of an underground cave. The water was pretty cold but very clear and everyone was in one giant line walking up through the streams- going through that watery hike together definitely brought our group closer together as a group. Remember that we were in the middle of the jungle, and the foliage and flowers were incredibly beautiful. When we got to one point, our guide told us to lower ourselves down into this little hole that lead to this underground cave. Taelar and I were at the very end of the line and we kept watching all our friends just disappear into the stream! It was freaky. So when we got up to the hole the guide told us, ok, the person behind you must sit directly behind you and block the water from rushing into the hole with you or you would go too fast and fall too quickly into the underground cave. This was all fine and good except for the fact that I was last- there was no one to block the water for me! So I’m sitting in the middle of the jungle in my bikini and sneakers, looking down at this dread-locked Jamaican dude, whom I absolutely cannot understand for the life of me, and I said, I’m last! What about the water! And he just smiles this big toothless smile and said, no problem mon! Lets see what happens! (How jamaican of him) So I do it, and I jumped into his arms and water dumped down on top of me and rushed into our little underground cave. The only way out of this little cave was to hold your breath and have the tour guide push you out and underneath the waterfall water, which was pouring down around the outside over our cave. So, I held my breath and went under and he pushed me out into the daylight. It was quite an experience.
THEN we turned around and walked back towards the waterfall, and jumped off the edge of this cliff. It was about a 20 foot drop, and you had to make sure to push off the rock as you jumped, or else you would get sucked in under the falls and die. This is how our tour guide explained it. So when it’s finally my turn and I’m standing at the top of this waterfall in the middle of the jungle in my sneakers, I ask, “is this hard?” And he say “not for me.. But I do this everyday!” Very comforting. So, I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, plugged my nose, and pushed off as hard as I could. The closed – eyes were a problem. I ended up nearly bellyflopping, and I thought that my nose was broken from the force of hitting the water. It’s not, and I jumped off a waterfall. That is all that counts, in my book.
Even though its only the third day of our trip, I have experienced more than I ever imagines possible. If i had to sum up Jamaica in three words I would say: sleepy, alive, and thrilling. The people are sleepy and kind and wise. The landscapes are alive and thriving and remind me what it means to be aware of my surroundings. And everything is thrilling- from the goats roaming everywhere, the music pumping from every street corner, the children who smile and wave and scream”‘me sight white girl, me sight white girl!”, the crystal clear ocean, the Rastamen with dread locks down to their knees, the jerk chicken that is so spicy it burns your lips, and the drivers who literally drive down the middle of the road until a car comes and forces them to choose a side. I love it here.
So where do you blog? I can’t even express how blessed I am that I am currently blogging from Jamaica.

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